Russians rule again at Qatar Open

Maria Sharapova will meet compatriot Vera Zvonareva in the Doha final.

    Maria Sharapova: Another big pay day beckons [AFP]
    Russia's Maria Sharapova, tournament fourth seed, is through to her second WTA Qatar Open final in as many appearances after a straight-sets 6-4, 6-3 semi-final win over Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska in Doha.

    Sharapova, fresh from her Australian Open win last month, will meet fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva in the final, after the player ranked 27 in the world came from one set down to defeat China's Na Li 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the opening semi-final on centre court.

    The Sharapova-Zvonareva final means that a Russian will be crowned champion of the WTA Qatar tournament for the fifth time in its eight year history.

    Anastasia Myskina won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004, Sharapova lifted the trophy at her first Doha appearance in 2005, and Nadia Petrova took the title the following year, creating a Russian revolution in the Gulf state.

    Radwanska, who benefited from the withdrawal of top seed Ana Ivanovic in the third round due to an ankle injury, had her chances to make a match out of her semi-final with Sharapova, but didn't take her break point opportunities.

    Sharapova broke her Polish opponent in the seventh game of the first set, and went on to serve it out for 6-4, before the second set began with each player dropping serve.

    However two further breaks to the tall Russian secured her path to the final as she continues her unbeaten streak in 2008.

    "Any semi is not going to be a piece of cake," Sharapova told Al Jazeera Sport of her straight-sets win.

    "Tournament finals are always going to be tough. I've just got to take care of my side of the net and play my best out there."

    Vera Zvonareva: Fighter [AFP]
    Zvonereva books her spot

    Earlier on centre court at the Khalifa International Tennis complex, Li took the first set against Zvonareva and looked ready to continue her impressive run at the event, having already defeated fifth seed Anna Chakvetadze, 12th seed Shahar Peer, and third seed Jelena Jankovic.

    However Zvonareva rallied, winning the second set to take the game into a decider.

    The Russian secured the decisive break in the third set after Li hit two consecutive backhands long in the seventh game, giving her opponent a 4-3 lead.

    Zvonareva then held for 5-3, and closed out the match by breaking the Chinese player again to take victory on another Li unforced error.

    "It was an unbelievably tough match. I was fighting for every point," Zvonareva said in her courtside interview.

    "I lost the first set, but I kept fighting and I'm really happy."

    When asked about the possibility of meeting compatriot Sharapova in Sunday's final, Zvonareva replied: "It's always great when Russians get to the late stages of the tournament.

    "I wish her good luck, but I'll be doing my best in the final tomorrow."

    The WTA Qatar Open was this year elevated to Tier 1 status, with a total prize pool of $2.5 million. The winner of the tournament will leave Doha $414,000 richer.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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